East Asia Theater
Hong Kong authorities arrested seven prominent opposition politicians Nov. 1, and an eighth the following day. The charges arise from an incident during a Legislative Council meeting in May. The politicians arrested are Wu Chi-wai, Andrew Wan, Helena Wong, Fernando Cheung, and Ted Hui, all pro-democracy lawmakers, in addition to Kwok Wing-kin, chairman of the Labour Party, and former lawmakers Eddie Chu and Ray Chan. All eight have been released on bail. Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, denounced the arrests as an attempt to silence the opposition. The arrests do not appear to be tied to the widely condemned National Security Law that went into affect in June.
Fears are mounting over an environmental disaster of still unknown origin in Russia's Far East after residents reported finding dozens of dead sea animals washed onto a beach from the Pacific. Greenpeace Russia said tests conducted on water samples taken from Khalaktyrsky beach in Kamchatka krai showed petroleum levels four times higher than usual, and phenol levels 2.5 times higher. "The scale of the contamination has not yet been determined, but the fact that dead animals are found all along the coast confirms the seriousness of the situation," the organization said in a statement, warning of an "ecological catastrophe." Images shared on social media, including by popular blogger Yuri Dud showed dead fish, octopuses, sea urchins, crabs and other marine animals washed up on the shore.
On Sept. 6, the day Hong Kong's Legislative Council elections were originally scheduled before being postponed under pandemic emergency measures, hundreds of protesters defied a ban on street demonstrations to march in opposition to the postponement and the new National Security Law. Some 300 were arrested, and police fired tear-gas and pepperballs to disperse the crowd in Yau Tsim Mong district of Kowloon. (HKFP) Two days earlier, the UN special rapporteur for Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights Protection, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, and six other UN experts jointly sent a letter to the Chinese government stating that the National Security Law "infringes certain fundamental rights," and expressing concern that the law may be used to prosecute political dissidents in Hong Kong. (Communal News)
Hong Kong will postpone Legislative Council elections originally scheduled for Sept. 6 by one year, citing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. In making the announcement July 31, Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked the city's Emergency Regulations Ordinance. (HKFP, RTHK) But Beijing's political imperatives are pretty clearly behind the decision. This was acknowledged by Lau Siu-kai, vice president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macau Studies, Beijing's own leading think-tank on the semi-autonomous territories. Framing the issue in Great Power terms, Lau said that "the serious international situation between the United States and China...prompts Beijing into doing something to prevent the hostile forces from taking over LegCo and to make sure that the national security is safeguarded." (RTHK)
Hong Kong pro-democracy group Demosisto announced it will disband following China's enactment of a "National Security Law" that extends Beijing's control over the semi-autonomous city. The decision to disband came hours after three of the group's leading activists, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Agnes Chow, issued statements saying they were stepping down from the organization under threat of "political imprisonment."
At a rally at Taipei's Liberty Square marking the one-year anniversary of the start of the Hong Kong protest movement June 13, demonstrators held banners that read: "Taiwan and Hong Kong are partners together, the struggle remains unfinished," and "Against the expansion of Chinese imperialism." (Taipei Times) Earlier that day, demonstrators gathered in Taipei's 228 Memorial Park for a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States. Some speakers drew parallels between the contemporary police brutality in the US and the repression of dissidents during the White Terror of Taiwan's authoritarian past.
In an alarming tit-for-tat June 9, Taiwan's defense ministry said that several Chinese fighter jets briefly entered the country's air defense identification zone, and the US took the unusual move of flying a C-40A military transport plane over Taiwan. The US overflight was assailed by Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office as "an illegal act and a seriously provocative incident." This comes as the US is deploying two aircraft carrier strike groups to the Pacific—the San Diego-based USS Nimitz and the Yokosuka-based USS Ronald Reagan. These join the USS Theodore Roosevelt, also based in San Diego but now patrolling the Philippine Sea near Guam. This marks the first time in three years that three US strike gorups have been simultaneously deployed to the Pacific, in what is being seen as an explicit warning to China. The triple deployment follows accusations by Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, commander of US forces in Japan, that China is using the coronavirus crisis as a cover to push territorial claims in the South China Sea. "Through the course of the COVID crisis we saw a surge of maritime activity," Schneider told Reuters. (The Hill, The Hill, USNI News, Reuters, AP)
Thousands gathered in Hong Kong's Victoria Park to attend the annual candlelight vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4—in defiance of an unprecedented police ban, ostensibly imposed as a measure to contain COVID-19. Attendees wearing surgical masks clambered over police barriers to enter the park. Organizers, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said that participants would enter the park in groups of eight, as per the official restrictions on public gatherings. Thousands of police were on stand-by in the area, but did not intervene. The solemn occasion usually attracts tens of thousands of participants, as Hong Kong is the only place on Chinese soil where such an event can be held. (HKFP)